Jacksonville Leader Pushes for First Step Act in Washington, D.C.

Operation New Hope CEO & Founder, Kevin Gay, is in Washington, D.C. this week meeting with legislators and other First Step Act (S. 2795) supporters in an effort to see the bill get passed before the session ends next month. The bill has benefited from wide support on both sides of the aisle, as well as President Trump. The only thing that seems to be standing in the way is the opposition of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is responsible for bringing new legislation to the floor.

This is the 3rd trip to D.C. this year for Gay, who is recognized nationally among prison reformers, thanks in large part to the 2-decade success of his Jacksonville-based nonprofit, Operation New Hope. Gay joins #Cut50 and Dream Corps leadership in D.C. this week supporting the most significant criminal justice reform bill in 8 years.

The First Step Act proposes to transform federal prisons into places of rehabilitation, and to better prepare prisoners for life after incarceration. The act began as the Prison Reform Bill and passed in the House 360-59. The act would reduce the number of federal prisoners by 20% over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. One of the most highlighted aspects of the bill is the banning of the draconian practice of shackling women during childbirth. It also bans solitary confinement for pregnant women. Volunteers, faith-based organizations and nonprofits like Operation New Hope would have expanded access to go inside the prisons and provide much needed programming, not currently provided or undeserved.

It is exciting to be this close to passing the most meaningful reform in a long time. Even though this bill only affects about 8% of all incarcerated people in the country, it is likely states would soon follow. Rarely is an issue as important as this accepted and supported from the left and right, the time is now to get this passed.

-Kevin Gay CEO and Founder

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